Microsoft Azure Review

A scalable cloud computing service with valuable automation features

What is our primary use case?

Our use cases are basically cost agility and efficiency.

How has it helped my organization?

Microsoft Azure really enforces the automation capabilities of our workforce. It drives us towards a new operating model in terms of delivering services more quickly and more automatically.

What is most valuable?

I think Azure's level of automation to achieve efficiency or agility is valuable. I also like the change capability cadence, the showback capabilities, and understanding what our costs are. We don't have that in our on-premise environment. That whole showback capability is very interesting for us. It helps to hold the stakeholders accountable for our spending. 

What needs improvement?

Talking about improvement is like a double-edged sword. We like that they have the new capabilities, but sometimes they're deprecating capabilities faster than we can handle. If we had to improve it, we would want to stay on some of these older capabilities a bit longer. It's a brilliant platform for our staff to be more agile and more efficient but probably doesn't match with us in terms of maturity.

For example, they offer this tagging capability, but they keep introducing new platforms without it. We've become heavily reliant on tagging, but in the case of NetApp, they introduced it into the environment, and now we're not able to get the showback off of that. 

If they introduce new capabilities, they have to have all the features and functions on that new capability. They're not very good at that. If they introduce new capabilities, all the feature sets on these new capabilities should be available immediately. From my perspective, that's where they need to improve.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using Microsoft Azure for about a year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability is very good.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Microsoft Azure is very scalable. Our data center staff are using the solution, and then the application teams are engaging the data center staff to use that solution. We've just had a few use cases in there, and now we're just gaining experience.

Like with any new technology, we're currently re-skilling staff. It's the way we're approaching it on a six to 12-month journey before we start to get to the product and the benefits.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is average.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup isn't straightforward. You need to bring in an experienced system integrator to help you with the knowledge transfer. That's the approach we took.

What about the implementation team?

We brought in an experienced system integrator that helped us build the environment and did the knowledge transfer into our workforce. I think that's a requirement. We had a very positive experience with our system integrator. The setup, we call it the Azure landing zone, and it's the data center. To set up the foundational build was a three-month engagement.

The system integrator is the intermediary between Microsoft and us. That's the value proposition of a system integrator. The system integrator helps cut through some of that. Microsoft is a big organization, and it's sometimes very hard to get to the right resources with the right knowledge. The challenge with Microsoft is that they have multiple solutions, and it's up to you to pick the right solution path. That's very hard for most organizations to do.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It's a metered environment, and it's pay-as-you-go. That's the big challenge with a metered environment. The challenge is optimizing how you use that to reduce your meter costs. It's like your children have to be good at not leaving the lights on in their bedroom to save on the power bill. That's a cultural change. 

You have to change your consumption patterns, and that's hard to do. You can get a very big bill because your consumption patterns aren't very good. We're no different than any other organization that's gone to a public cloud. You get these surprise bills, and then you've got to figure out how to manage them down appropriately.

For us, the additional cost is connectivity to the Azure data center. They said that we had to set up an Equinix data center to get from our location here in Regina, Saskatchewan, to Toronto down East. Those are some big new communication charges that we didn't have before.

That adds a significant cost to that. Private internet connectivity to a cloud is a big expense. That can be a very big cost, especially for remote businesses that are co-located to cloud data centers.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Microsoft Azure was a strategic choice. We wanted to go with a multi-cloud model, but we felt like we didn't know enough about clouds. We just kind of thought Microsoft was one of our strategic partners and decided to go with them and learn before we took the multi-cloud approach.

What other advice do I have?

The advice I would give potential users would be to focus on their cost management skills and metering skills. It's all about managing your consumption. You've got to understand your consumption patterns and then learn how to manage consumption patterns going forward.

It's a really good product. In terms of leading hyperscalers, they offer very competitive features, functions, and rates compared to AWS and Google. They continue to advance their technical capabilities as rapidly or more rapidly than the other two hyperscalers. So, I would rate Microsoft Azure very high.

On a scale from one to ten, I would give Microsoft Azure a nine.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Public Cloud

If public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud, which cloud provider do you use?

Microsoft Azure
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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